Inquest jury finds in-custody death accidental
Published Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:07PM PST
The death of a man in Chilliwack RCMP custody two years ago was accidental, but police and paramedics should get extra training to deal with people displaying "excited delirium," a coroner's inquest jury has found.
Excited delirium is a term that has been used to explain in-custody deaths, but it is the subject of fierce debate in the scientific community.
Robert Thurston Knipstrom, 36, appeared to be in a psychotic state when he showed up at an Eze rental store in November 2007.
Officers told the inquest that they had a difficult time getting him under control. Knipstrom was pepper sprayed, hit with a baton and Tasered six times.
Video presented at the inquest showed Knipstrom covered in blood and screaming.
He later died in hospital.
At the inquest Thursday, a medical expert testified that when dealing with people in that state, police should keep struggle to a minimum and paramedics should have the power to tranquilize people at the scene.
But first, police and emergency responders need to recognize the signs of distress, said Dr. Christine Hall.
Hall cited a study by the American College of Emergency Physicians that outlines the symptoms of so-called "excited delirium": screaming, often naked, oblivious to people around them, super-human strength.
The study found most people in that state will die of cardiac arrest once restrained within 15 minutes.
"It's not appropriate to say just because an officer responded to a scene and a bad outcome happened, there is fault," Hall said outside the inquest.
The jury agreed. It ruled the death an accident and determined the cause to be a combination of drug intoxication and "excited delirium with physical restraint."
It recommended that first responders be given enhanced training and regular reorientation on the subject of excited delirium.
It also recommended the BC Ambulance Service review its policies on the positioning of restrained patients, and create a standard procedure with respect to excited delirium.
"This procedure should include a crew member notifying the receiving hospital that a patient with suspected excited delirium is being transported to them," the jury said.
It also recommended the ambulance service add excited delirium as a suspected diagnosis.
And the jury recommended that police should contact paramedics to request an Advanced Life Support team "in anticipation of an arrest of a person exhibiting classic signs of excited delirium."
A spokesperson for B.C. Ambulance Service declined to comment about the verdict Thursday night.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lisa Rossington